Holding onto a 5-2 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, No. 15 Maryland baseball was in a comfortable spot with its offense finally waking up.
Junior right-handed pitcher Nick Dean struck out the first two batters, but the game was suddenly tied at five after consecutive doubles and a two-run homer from the Boilermakers.
However, in the top of the sixth, sophomore shortstop Matt Shaw walked up to the plate with a purpose, taking his second pitch for a ride over the center field wall, giving Maryland a 7-5 lead, one it never relinquished.
The home run was Shaw’s 20th of the season as the Terps never looked back, defeating Purdue, 18-7, on Friday night in West Lafayette, Indiana. With the win, Maryland has clinched the Big Ten regular season title for the first time in program history. The Terps will be the No. 1 seed in next week’s Big Ten Tournament.
The win also secured another Big Ten series win for Maryland, finishing the season with a perfect 8-0 record in conference series for the first time in school history.
Similar to Thursday night’s game, fifth-year center fielder Chris Alleyne scored the Terps lone run in the top of the first. However, this time it was on a solo home run over the right field wall, continuing his hot streak as he’s homered in the last four games.
Purdue was able to get a base runner on early in the button of the opening inning, but it was erased shortly after as sophomore catcher Luke Shliger caught Purdue junior center fielder Curtis Washington stealing second.
Unlike Thursday night’s game, it didn’t take the Boilermakers long to put runs on the board. Graduate student third baseman Troy Viola led off the top of the second with a double down the left field line. Back-to-back hits followed Viola, and Purdue gained its first lead of the series.
Down 2-1 in the top of the third, two quick walks and a bunt put two Maryland base runners on second and third. After Shaw was intentionally walked, it was up to junior left fielder Troy Schreffler to make the most of this opportunity with the bases loaded and two outs on the board. Schreffler didn’t get a pitch he liked as he struck out looking to end the inning.
Dean left the third inning unscathed, putting the Terps in prime position to tie the game.
Senior first baseman Maxwell Costes and freshman designated hitter Ian Petrutz got the fourth inning started with singles to the left side of the field. After Shliger was walked, Maryland found itself in the same position as the previous inning with the bases loaded and two outs.
This time around, Alleyne remained patient at the plate. Purdue redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Wyatt Wendell walked him on a full count, knotting the game at two.
Wendell only made it two-thirds of the way through the top of the fifth as the Terps got right back to work.
Consecutive singles from Shaw and Schreffler helped Maryland regain its one-run lead, and then an RBI single from Petrutz scored Schreffler, which forced Purdue’s first pitching change.
Sophomore second baseman Kevin Keister smashed Purdue freshman right-handed pitcher Khal Stephen’s first pitch of the game to right-center field, scoring the final run of the half inning.
Dean looked locked in to begin the bottom of the fifth, striking out the first two batters with ease. It didn’t take long for the inning to get out of hand, though, as back-to-back doubles were roped down the left field line. Then, redshirt sophomore second baseman Paul Toetz destroyed a two-run shot over the left field wall, tying the game at five.
Maryland immediately responded as Shaw lined his 20th home run of the season over the center wall, tacking on two more for the Terps.
Redshirt freshman right-handed pitcher Nigel Belgrave relieved Dean in the bottom of the sixth and kept the Boilermakers at bay, retiring the side in five batters.
The Terps capitalized on Belgrave’s clean inning, blowing the doors open in the top of the seventh. Alleyne hit his 22nd home run of the season, just one away from the single-season school record.
Shaw took care of the final two runs, driving in Lorusso and then swiping home on a wild pitch as Maryland held a commanding 12-5 lead after a five-run seventh inning.
Belgrave held the Boilermakers off in the seventh, but surrendered a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth. With two men on and no outs, head coach Rob Vaughn turned to redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher David Falco to close out the inning.
Purdue scored one more in the eighth, but Falco struck out two batters as Maryland held onto a five-run lead heading into the ninth.
Maryland ended any comeback hopes for the Boilermakers, scoring a whopping six runs in the final inning, two of which came on Shaw’s second home run of the day.
Falco closed out the ninth and struck out the final two batters of the game, securing an 18-7 win for the Terps and the regular season title.
Three things to know
1. Matt Shaw and Chris Alleyne are in a heated home run race. Coming into the three-game series against Purdue, Alleyne and Shaw led the Big Ten in home runs with 19 a piece. After Alleyne hit one on Thursday, it didn’t take long for Shaw to join him in the 20-home run club as he hit a two-run shot on Friday. Alleyne is currently beating Shaw 22-21, and with no other Big Ten player hitting more than 17 home runs, it looks as though the winner will be a Terp.
2. Nick Dean had a rough outing, but it didn’t matter. Throughout the majority of the season, Maryland’s starters have had a more than respectable reputation on the mound, but the Terps offense has been the focal point recently. This is the fifth time this season that Dean couldn’t make it past the fifth inning. The junior pitched five innings, allowing 10 hits and five runs, while striking out four batters on Friday night. Dean has been inconsistent this season, but if he can give the Terps six solid innings, they will be dangerous no matter the opponent.
3. Maryland clinched the Big Ten regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. After Rutgers lost to Michigan on Thursday night and Maryland defeated Purdue on Friday night, the Terps have officially clinched a share of the Big Ten regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in school history. If Maryland wins on Saturday or Rutgers loses on Friday night or Saturday, the Big Ten regular season title will belong solely to the Terps. Maryland is loaded with expectations entering postseason play after a historic regular season that will conclude in the series, and season finale against Purdue on Saturday.